Ice pelted the window, a harbinger of worse weather to come. Eneas glanced up from the old-fashioned desk and stared at the growing storm, amazed at how fast the weather had changed. He'd forgotten that aspect of the winter at home. What surprised him more was the surge of childish joy the howl of the wind brought. He needed to get the work done and get home.
Eneas had returned to Terra Nova hardly a year ago, though not with the intention of going to his backwater hometown to teach in the one room school. He'd come back with degrees from Earth-based schools, and a bright future in government.
Yet here he sat, in the little school room Cleaning up the messes Teacher Lowell had left behind when the locals finally removed the bigoted old fool from his position.
Lowell should have been gone a decade before, back when Eneas had been going to school here. Even as a child, Eneas had known the man was a blustering, pedantic and ill-educated man. He hadn't heard all the details about the incident which had finally prompted his removal, though apparently the problem revolved around teaching his own version of history.
Eneas didn't think he should be the person to replace Lowell, even for a short time. However, he'd come back to visit his parents as the trouble broke. If the township hadn't found someone to take Lowell's place, they would have had to keep him on for another season and probably longer. Damned few people wanted to move out into the boonies to teach farm kids these days.
Eneas volunteered to take the position for at least one season. He did so simply for the joy of seeing Lowell told to start packing.
And now he sat at the computer, grading papers. He laughed a little, wondering if the price had been too great for that little moment of revenge. He wondered if Lowell even remembered the day the man had stamped VOID on Eneas's request for college exams, and told him to stick to farming like his father.
He smiled once more and went back to the gentle work of retraining kids who thought Earth was a theocracy and Terra Nova settled by people forcibly relocated to the new world and left to die.
The computer flashed that he had text mail and Eneas kicked it over out of habit. Vid was more usual, but he actually preferred text --
Unfortunately, what he found was a note from Nancilyn, his former wife. He should have realized. She hadn't complained to him about something for nearly two weeks now.
With a grimace of distaste, he opened the note. There was no salutation, no greeting, no question about his condition, if he were happy, if things were working out. As usual, the note held only a complaint, and not even a new one.
Two years ago when we met when you returned from Earth I believed you to be an honest, hard working man who would go far. I followed your star, and you've left me stranded here, trying to pick up my life again --
He stopped reading. He had, in fact, read almost the identical words three weeks ago, when she ranted about having to move from the apartment to get closer to work. She had made it his fault. Never mind that she had chosen the apartment and the job, and long before they discussed ending the marriage.
He hadn't been the one to suggest they get married. Things hadn't worked between them, which he regretted, but . . . .
Eneas leaned back in his chair and stared out at the falling snow and he thought about the paper he had just read by Cyris Air. Teacher Lowell taught us the reason we are so poor is government oppression. The Capital forced our people to come here and be farmers, and they'll never let us leave and be anything else.
Lowell had made a choice to teach here and he had no more been forced than . . . than Nancilyn had been forced to make the choices she made. And yet, here they both were, looking for someone else to blame for their own decisions.
A decade ago, anger had sent Eneas off to the city, and finally off world, to get the education Lowell tried to deny him. However, justice brought him back here again, to show these farm kids that they could be anything they wanted and to teach them the truth, which also meant that being farmers was not some sort of punishment. Their grandparents had come here of their own choice and they had done well. They had been brave people, creating the small settlement that held on through disease and disaster. This was a place to be proud of and not a prison sentence.
He leaned back over the computer. The wind splattered white snow against the glass beside him, the weather changing. Change in the air. He needed to be done with this quickly.
He wiped out her letter without even reading more and began to type an answer.
It's time you take responsibility for your own life and your own choices. I did not chain you up and force you to marry me. We agreed to mutual separation because it did not work out. It's over. Move on.
He sent the note and then blocked all vid and text from her in the future, to be returned unread. He had finally broken the chain she put around him.
And that was justice too.
He had a pleasant walk back to his home, laughing as he ran and slid along the icy paths, realizing how happy he was to be home.
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